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Adoptee-Themed Books for Kids:

…They are a rare and wonderful find. Here are two:

Indiana adoption authors and advocates. Pam Kroskee and Marcie Keithley have written a delightful, insightful and uplifting children’s picture book called Frankie and Friends Talk Adoption. It is worded on an early reader level (pre-K-2nd) but can be appreciated by anyone who wishes to understand what being adopted might feel like for a child or an adoptee at any age.

I am particularly impressed by how aspects of being adopted, such as, not looking like other family members, curiosity about your birth story, separation worries, etc. are addressed with a question. For example, “When I look in the mirror, I wonder who I look like. Do you ever wonder who you look like?” It’s as though there could be an accompanying workbook or activity sheet to supplement questions and thoughts introduced within the book. I am also impressed and pleased by affirming statements like, “If you do, that’s okay!

This book lays out many adoptees’ concerns at all ages but keeps the focus full of acceptance and positivity. The language is simple but meaningful, direct yet compassionate. Kudos as well to the illustrator, Josh Allen, whose drawings are vivid, colorful and kid-friendly.

This is a great storybook for adoptive parents, elementary educators, child counselors and anyone interested in the adoptee point of view.

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Jack & Emma’s -adoptee- Journey is another kids’ book written by an adoptee, author, and advocate, Pam Kroksie. This book is designed for a reading and comprehension level of K-5 and beyond. Jack & Emma’s -adoptee- Journey addresses unique perspectives and concerns adopted kids frequently think about but sometimes feel awkward discussing because they lack understanding peers or parents who can relate or because they have little to no access to adoption focused counselors.

Concerns addressed in this book range from Who do I look like, Why does my birthday feel confusing? to What happened to cause my adoption?” Brief explanations and reflections to some adoptees’ feelings and questions are provided in information boxes with each scenario.

This is a useful resource book for educators at many levels, adoptive parents and even adoptees themselves because it is written by a fellow adopted person.

The tone in this book is realistic, positive and hopeful. The illustrations by Ashleigh McGill are bold, colorful and carefully detailed.

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Is Adoption Funny?

Lori Lavender Luz, aka Lori Holden, is a blogger and author about the complexities of adoption. Recently there has been a lot of “traffic” on her blog post regarding her entry from possibly a year ago regarding using adoption as a punchline. I’ve been pondering this notion myself for a while now.

Is adoption “funny”?

I think this meme is funny and cute, but then again, I’m a Cat Lady AND I’m like OMG! Penguins! Squeeee!!!!:b260ea98101b763db7e5be69eeb3674a.jpg

However, when adoption is used to belittle someone regarding their intelligence, mindset or lifestyle, it is not much different than using the “R” word. I will not bother to share a meme/joke of this ilk lest it offends and triggers my adoptee colleagues.

Bravo to Lori Lavender Luz/ Lori Holden for speaking up about the adoption joke she overheard. Her story regarding said incident can be found here:

https://lavenderluz.com/2017/11/adoption-punchline.html?fbclid=IwAR3z7j-7_3EmAxrqIAUbSnf7g8p64XqXQIwGd3qZ-fd3wJW6HTqu7Jv5rp0

Not only did she speak up, but Lori also did it with class and eloquence. I hope the parent who was innocently joking around got the point.

I hope I can follow the example she’s set should this ever happen to me.

Adoption: The Never-Ending Story

This weekend on Ancestry DNA, I found a first cousin match! ( or did my new 1st cousin find me?) 🤔 At any rate, it’s delightful. This time in the adoption story I’m on the other side of the fence. I’m his bio cousin. I’m the one holding a bunch of answers to his over 50 years of questions.

Will I help a cousin out? You bet I will!  I’m excited to “do my job” as both a fellow adoptee who gets it and as a family member, willing to be open and accepting to the new guy. I’m excited and he is ecstatic!

We are related in that our birth fathers were brothers. My bio-father had more in common with his big brother then just being in the Navy. It’s possible my uncle, this new cousin’s dad never had a clue as to what resulted from probably a brief, in-the-moment “fling”. We’ll never know how that part would be handled since everyone who could have known from that generation has passed.

Too many secrets. So much information. Our stories continue to unfold, one adoptee at a time.

One thing my new cousin and I can agree on. We’re not alone. We’re glad there are others out there just like us. We are glad to now have each other.

Book Review: Permanent Home by Mary Ellen Gambutti

Mary Ellen Gambutti’s new memoir book, Permanent Home, is lyrical, descriptive and fast-moving. It is the story of her life presented in brief but richly-worded glimpses into simpler, more traditional times while coming of age during the eye-opening, counter-culture emergent 1950s-70s. The opening section of this book masterfully sets the scene during a time when American prosperity and freedom abound and blissful acceptance of authority was the norm. This section is also about Gambutti’s loving relationship with her Nana and their shared esteem for gardening and nature.

In the middle sections of this book, the story continues as the author shares her joys and frustrations of being adopted, searching for and connecting with biological family. She describes via assorted vignettes her frustrations regarding closed birth records, missing health history and not looking like anyone in her family plus the marvels of her reunion experiences. She tells of the turbulent relationship between herself and her military-careered adoptive father, her teen angst and rebellion as she comes out of not just the usual fog all adolescents experience but the adoptee fog, which creates an additional layer.

The later parts of Gambutti’s story tie up the loose ends and take the reader into more recent times: her gardening career, survival of a hemorrhagic stroke and hard-fought recovery and her life now, filled with writing, love of plants, nature, and peace.

Permanent Home is a wonderful life story which would have appeal to any fellow adoptee, especially those from the Baby-Scoop Era, and anyone else in the adoption community, seeking research, kinship, and validation. It’s a quick read for those short on time, but Gambutti, an expert in the Haibun writing style, packs a lot of imagery and feeling into her written art.

She Has My Hands!

My daughter gave birth to my first grandbaby on Wednesday very early in the AM, the day before Thanksgiving. I saw the whole thing happen, and I feel honored to have been a part of the “team” who facilitated the arrival of this beautiful, precious miracle. We have much to be thankful for, and it is a birth story our family will be regaling in for years to come.

The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around my granddaughter ’s tiny neck, (not tightly), but the heart rate monitor told us she was fine. The doctor quickly unfurled her as she slipped forth into the actual world and placed the infant in my daughter’s arms. The baby grunted first, then cried out.

No sound is sweeter! No sound is more perfect.

When the professionals took the baby to the examining table and warming lamp for measurements and Apgar testing I followed with my camera and snapped some amazing photos. My granddaughter fussed a little. (Who wouldn’t when you have a bunch of strange people looking at your naked, vulnerable presence on a flat, white surface with big lights and instruments) and my inner adoptee brain said, “ Birth is traumatic regardless, so let’s reduce the trauma somehow.”

I reached for her hand and began to talk.

Actually, I babbled with sleepless and shameless delight, but who cares?  I talked to my grandbaby girl and told her she was OK; that she was beautiful and loved by everybody. She was fine. Her mommy and daddy were fine. Everything in her life was fine. I repeated those words over and over. She looked over at me and fixed on my voice and whatever her newborn eyes could see and relaxed instantly. She knew me! She must have!

I took her little hand in mine, and her fingers curled tightly around my index finger. Her digits were dainty, long and slender but very strong.46508750_10161009548305459_7629862672376266752_n.jpgIMG_4028.jpeg

She had my hands!

Oh my God! She has my hands!

She has my mani!  (I said it in a funny way, but it was true.)

I saw something of ME in my newborn granddaughter.

I am an adoptee who’s been fortunate enough to have birthed and raised my biological daughters, and now get to see my grandchild…another biological relative….and this kid has my nails, knuckles, and fingers! That’s not happened before.

All my sisters and daughters have shorter fingers and small hands. Mine look like Kobe Bryant’s by comparison. My grandbaby has my hands!

Mine!

Wow!

I know her body will change some as she grows and develops muscle tone and more bone density, but I saw a piece of ME in her I’d never seen before!

I’ve inserted another missing puzzle piece. (I’ve been in reunion for over 30 years, and I had no idea I still had missing parts.)IMG_4040.jpeg

I’m swooning.

I’m relishing.

I’m delighting.

I’m connecting.

I’m thanking G-d, The Force, my Ancestors,  the Universe, Spirit, etc.

I’m in awe and in love.

I’m a grandma!

Something I’m looking forward to:

Megan n Max Baby announcement 2018.jpg#Grandbaby

Missing Pieces

I have an original birth certificate and a fabricated (aka “amended”) birth certificate. This happens a lot with adopted people. You might think it’s kinda cool and noteworthy to have two birth documents but it’s actually complicated. After 57 years, I’ve learned to deal with it, but It’s taken some soul-searching.

When I was very small and my (adoptive) parents explained that I was adopted they showed me my birth certificate. The only one they had was the changed one, but it was theirs, and it was mine. It bonded us as a family. It was the piece of identity on paper that I used for obtaining a social security number, a driver’s license, a passport, and a job. That paper was me. Only it wasn’t all me. It was legal, and it was real, but it also made part of me unreal.

My amended birth document contains my adoptive parents’ names as if they’d been the ones who conceived and birthed me. It lists my hospital of birth and my birth date. However, it does not list my time of birth nor my birth length/weight. Everyone I know has these tidbits of information. I often felt disturbed that my paperwork was lacking, (especially when people would talk about how big someone’s baby was and at what time they entered this world). You wouldn’t think those little-bitty details would matter that much, but they did to me. Honestly, until my mid-20s I hated, (yes literally), hated my birth certificate because it wasn’t real enough and it was not inclusive. Instead, I had a societally expected text to follow, and it was bullcrap because I did not have what other “normal” (in my young mind) people had.

My so-called script was to acknowledge that I was an adopted “child” and I was “chosen” by my adoptive parents, so that made me “ special” and “grateful”. (To be fair here, I must note that my culture in a general sense, gave me this expectation. My adoptive parents did not, except maybe for the word “special”, but they felt a lot of people and things were special.)

News flash: “Normal” people don’t use scripts; not for their birth story.

It took years for me to find the words to explain why this parlance was no good. For one thing, a child grows up. I’m not a child now, nor do I want to be. Adopted people do not want to be regarded as a perpetual child, but in many states, this is how adoption law works. We can smoke, drink, buy lottery tickets and serve in the military, but many of us cannot access our first birth certificate that has detailed information about our true start in life.

I’ve always associated the word, “chosen” with picking out a puppy from a litter or the old TV commercial slogan, “Choosy mothers choose Jif.” Being chosen implies that the adoptee has had no control. This verbiage potentially sets someone up to be hesitant and less inclined to seek leadership. Being chosen also implies hoping that other people out there deem you worthy enough to be selected. I refuse to believe that a child or baby in an orphanage who happened to never be adopted is in any way less worthy.

“Grateful”. Again this is a highly charged word. I’m grateful for a lot of things, but should I be more grateful than anyone else? How do you measure gratefulness anyway?

I found out from watching a TV talk show that adopted people in Ohio could actually acquire their original birth certificate, (referred to as an OBC in Adoption-land), so I sent Vital Statistics a twenty dollar check, and six weeks later the paper-pushers in Columbus sent me a big, fat envelope with copies of my real identity. My OBC even had listed the first, middle and last names of my birth parents, my pre-adoption name and a notation showing that I was not a first birth for my biological mother. I had a sibling out there!

The day I sat at my kitchen table and finally absorbed the realities reflected on these papers I changed from a functional but incomplete person to someone who felt whole and authentic. I no longer had to rely on a fabricated narrative about when, where and how I was born. My shame for not being grateful enough lifted from my soul, replaced by empowerment.

As I researched and uncovered more truths about my birth family for the rest of that year, I learned all I needed to know. I had to accept that due to my birth mother’s early-in-life death, I would never know all tidbits, but I had more than ever before. I had enough. I became the real me.

These days I happily share my birth story and I no longer hate it or find my natal facts lacking except in one way.
After all that time wishing and searching, my birth time and size were still omitted. Some things will always remain a mystery…

Book Review: An Adoptee Lexicon by Karen Pickell

Ohio adoptee and author, Karen Pickell’s new book is out. An Adoptee Lexicon reads fast, but don’t do it. The point is to savor these carefully chosen terms and phrases and think about their meanings. The book is styled as a series of vignettes and reflections about select words and Pickell’s personal associations when she encounters them. The focus is on how others comprehend these words and how she understands them from an adoptee perspective.

In everyday communication, all of us use a variety of vocabulary when projecting messages via speech, listening and writing skills. Using words like “mirror”, “first” or “normal” have connotations we all can generally relate to and are not wrong, but for an adopted person such terms take on more layers.

With each entry, Karen Pickell shares with the reader insights into her adoptee story and what being adopted has meant to her during different life stages. She shares researched facts about many sayings and words as they pertain to the “institution” of adoption.

My favorite segment of this book is the one entitled, “Mirror” in which Karen so eloquently and honestly describes how she once perceived herself and how she now sees herself after having her own children. Often, the only chance an adopted person has to connect with blood-related kin is if they have the opportunity to have and raise their own biological child(ren).

I hope every adoptee gets the chance to read and ponder over An Adoptee Lexicon. It’s unique in style, easy to follow and gets right to the point: What we say matters. How we think matters. Adopted people’s needs as adoptees matter.

An Adoptee Lexicon is available at Amazon.com in print and Kindle form.

For Halloween and the Eve of National Adoption Awareness Month: Ghosted

Ghosted

Billie is a ghost.

She saw me once, but I can’t remember seeing her.

Doctors sent me to the nursery, and then I went to foster care.

Billie went to the OR for surgery and then home to recover.

She appears in many photos, so I know she was real.

People talk about her, but I’ve never heard her voice.

She worked in restaurants and bakeries most of her life.

She never fed me.

She enjoyed country tunes, the old style.

I never heard her sing.

She danced and swayed to the music.

She never rocked me.

She argued fiercely with her boyfriend.

She and I never had a mother-daughter fight.

She wanted to find me and had carbon copies of papers.

I had a new name and a changed birth certificate.

She moved away to California, to start a new life.

I moved to Florida to start college.

Her heart valves gave out, and she died feeling broken.

I fell in love and returned to Ohio. My heart grew when my babies were born.

I’ve never felt Billie’s touch, but I have felt her presence in the room and in my daughters’ eyes.

Billie is a ghost.

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig: Book Review

Ginny Moon is a premiere novel by author and adoptive parent Benjamin Ludwig.  It is the fictional story of an adolescent girl who happens to be both adopted and autistic. I was drawn to this book immediately because I teach autistic students, and I am an adoptee. I enjoyed and appreciated the diary-like styling of this complex family story, as told from the point of view of Ginny, the young, endearing, learning-challenged adoptee who wants desperately to find her baby sister and know that the younger sister is alive and cared for.

Ginny is also an adoptee-lite in the sense that she knows who her biological mother, father, sister, and aunt are, but lacks the capacity to comprehend the precarious and destructive life her first mother has historically lead. Ginny’s prospective adoptive parents are portrayed as very caring regarding Ginny’s needs but also controlling and protective of their other biological infant daughter, (with good reason to a point). At one point in the story, I found myself disliking the adoptive mother mostly because she does not present as a happy person. She lacks trust and seems unwilling to try with Ginny once the new baby comes into their lives.

Ginny struggles with her need to feel worthy and needed by someone as well as her need to understand fully what truly lead to her relinquishment or separation from her mother of birth in spite of the mental challenges which her disability presents. Her “fog” is unique in that due to her mental challenges, she is not cognizant of the lapse in time (5 plus years) between when she was removed from her first home of squalor, neglect, and danger and placed in what she describes as “the Blue House with her Forever Mom and Dad”.

Autistic people seek to understand their environment in ways beyond what typical people strive for. They need to work through sensory/ information overload, multiple messages at one time, and the uniqueness and quirkiness of spoken language in addition to all the whys and why nots every adopted/relinquished person experiences regardless.

The novel, Ginny Moon, in no way promotes or supports one side of the adoption constellation or community over another. Author, Benjamin Ludwig writes from personal experience about parenting a special needs adoptee and all the joys and struggles that brings. Ludwig also conveys well the importance of having effective social workers/therapists who seek communication breakthroughs and understanding with their young clients.

Readers who enjoyed the book/movie WONDER might like this story because it conveys family unity and resilience amidst the challenges of raising a child with social and mental challenges. The characters are real, imperfect yet well-intentioned individuals. Ludwig captures the time of tween to early teen years when all kids, regardless of intellectual ability go through a phase when they increase their understanding and awareness of the greater world and begin to question how “the systems of society” work.

Another well-regarded novel I would liken Ginny Moon to is Mark Hadden’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, in which another young autistic teen feels compelled to unravel a mystery this time about a murdered neighborhood canine. The main character is accused of something he did not do and he must somehow break through an intense communication barrier in order to find out the truth about his life.

Ginny Moon is attention-grabbing because Ginny’s “voice” (as the narrator) is fascinating, sincere and down to earth. The chapters are short yet this book is rich in detail in all the right places. Educators at many levels will also find this book appealing and insightful. Author, Benjamin Ludwig effectively shows the fine balance between the needs and interests of adoptees, their biological mothers and fathers, adoptive parents and even social workers.

This book is traditionally published and available in most standard retail bookstores and online.